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ATHENS 2004

Phillips' Feet Match Feat in Long Jump

Appropriately attired in gold shoes, he wins the gold medal with a leap of 28-21/4, and Moffitt's silver gives the U.S. its first 1-2 finish since '92.

August 27, 2004|Helene Elliott | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — Dwight Phillips wore gold shoes to compete in the Olympic long jump final. A few hours later, he had a medal to match.

Phillips, a Georgia native who lives in Tempe, Ariz., soared 8.59 meters (28 feet 2 1/4 inches) on his first jump Thursday and watched his rivals flop and flail in vain attempts to match him. The 2003 world indoor and outdoor champion sweated only a bit, when teammate John Moffitt powered his way to a jump of 8.47 meters (27-9 1/2 ) on his fifth try, a personal best by 1 1/4 inches.

"I was immediately excited and I was like, 'Come get me. Come get me,' " said Phillips, who has the six longest jumps in the world this season and was one centimeter short of matching the world-best 8.60 jump he pulled off Aug. 2.

"He tried, and he got the silver medal."

Their feats produced the first 1-2 U.S. long jump finish since Carl Lewis and Mike Powell in 1992 and sent them skipping around the Olympic Stadium track with U.S. flags held high.

"I wanted to pressure everybody early," Phillips said of his prodigious first jump, "and I knew if I put the pressure on early it was going to be very hard to beat me.

"I was very confident going into this competition. I haven't lost a competition in a long time, and I wasn't about to start here."

Joan Lino Martinez of Spain got the bronze medal with a personal-best jump of 8.32 meters (27-3 3/4 ), one centimeter longer than James Beckford of Jamaica. Martinez also got an invitation to Phillips' Nov. 13 wedding to longtime girlfriend Valerie Williams after Phillips mentioned the nuptials during a news conference and Martinez nudged him with an elbow.

"Sure, he can come," Phillips said, beaming.

Invite the 70,000 people who watched him Thursday, and Phillips might not care. All was right with his world.

"[Wednesday] night I was a lot more nervous when I was watching the 200 and watching Allyson Felix finish second and watching Joanna Hayes win gold in the 100 hurdles," he said. "The tone was really set for us to do well, John and myself."

After his first jump, Phillips fouled on his second. He fouled again on his third, ending up face-first in the long jump pit after he twisted his ankle on the takeoff board.

"I tried to take a jump and ate a whole bunch of sand," he said,

He passed his next two turns but adrenaline drove him to jump once more -- and he went 8.35 meters (27-4 3/4 ), the third-best jump of the night. For a few minutes, thoughts of the doping scandal that has tarnished the sport's image were banished.

"This has been such a great Olympic Games and so many positive things have happened," Phillips said. "Justin Gatlin winning a gold medal in one of the greatest 100-meter races, [the U.S.] going 1-2-3 in the men's 200, guys going 1-2-3 in the 400.

"... This is the dream of a lifetime, to win a gold medal. I just kept thinking that it was going to be hard to defeat me."

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